Israeli MKs from left and right welcome Macron victory
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Israeli MKs from left and right welcome Macron victory

With 65% of vote, centrist Macron to become Republic's youngest president; Knesset lawmakers offer congratulations 'to France and democracy'

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

  • French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement, Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a campaign meeting at the Place du Vigan in Albi southwestern France, on May 4, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PASCAL PAVANI)
    French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement, Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a campaign meeting at the Place du Vigan in Albi southwestern France, on May 4, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PASCAL PAVANI)
  • Marwan Barghouti seen in video footage released May 7, 2017, unwrapping a candy bar in his cell while ostensibly leading a hunger strike among Palestinian prisoners. (Screen capture: Israeli Prison Service)
    Marwan Barghouti seen in video footage released May 7, 2017, unwrapping a candy bar in his cell while ostensibly leading a hunger strike among Palestinian prisoners. (Screen capture: Israeli Prison Service)
  • Illustrative: Border Police officers secure the area in front of Damascus Gate after a brief conflict with some Palestinian men on April 24, 2017. (Noah Park/Flash90)
    Illustrative: Border Police officers secure the area in front of Damascus Gate after a brief conflict with some Palestinian men on April 24, 2017. (Noah Park/Flash90)
  • German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, May 7, 2017.  (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
    German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, May 7, 2017. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, May 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, May 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)
  • Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint (Arab) List, speaks during a vote on a bill that would allow suspension of Knesset members, March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
    Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint (Arab) List, speaks during a vote on a bill that would allow suspension of Knesset members, March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
  • Early arrivals at the polling station in Haifa, for the French presidential election on 7 May 2017 (Pierre-Simon Assouline)
    Early arrivals at the polling station in Haifa, for the French presidential election on 7 May 2017 (Pierre-Simon Assouline)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they unfolded.

Reigniting old dispute, ministers okay new ‘Jewish State’ bill

Resuming a battle that nearly brought down the government three years ago, ministers give their go-ahead for a controversial and long-debated proposal to officially define Israel as a Jewish nation-state.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation votes unanimously in favor of throwing coalition support behind Likud MK Avi Dichter’s “Jewish State Bill,” which, for the first time in Israeli law, would determine Israel to be “the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its aspirations for self-determination according to its cultural and historic traditions.”

If passed in the Knesset, the law would become one of the so-called Basic Laws, which like a constitution guide Israel’s legal system and are more difficult than regular laws to repeal.

​”This is a small step for the Jewish State bill — that establishes that Israel is and will be a Jewish and democratic state — and it’s a big step toward defining our identity, not only in the eyes of the world but primarily for ourselves, Israelis. To be a free people in our land,” Dichter said in response to the decision.

French election turnout 28.23 percent at midday

Turnout in France’s presidential election currently stands at 28.23 percent, the interior ministry says, down from 30.66 percent at the same point in the 2012 presidential ballot.

Sunday’s figure was slightly down on the midday participation rate of 28.54 recorded during the first round of the election on April 23.

Overall turnout for French presidential elections is generally high, at around 80 percent.

Election campaign posters for French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are displayed in front of the polling station where Marine Le Pen will vote in Henin Beaumont, northern France, Saturday, May 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Election campaign posters for French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are displayed in front of the polling station where Marine Le Pen will vote in Henin Beaumont, northern France, May 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Sunday’s election pitting centrist Emmanuel Macron against Marine Le Pen of the far right falls in the middle of a three-day weekend in France. It is the first in the six decades of the Fifth Republic in which neither the traditional left nor right has a candidate.

A recent voter survey found that seven in 10 voters are unhappy with the choice between Macron and Le Pen. The interior ministry is to issue the next turnout figures at 5 p.m. local time, while first estimated results are expected shortly after 8 p.m.

— AFP

Red Cross tweets image of freed Chibok girls

The International Committee of the Red Cross has tweeted what might be the first public image of the Chibok schoolgirls freed by Boko Haram extremists.

The ICRC tweet shows a line of girls wearing shirts with the Red Cross logo walking across a runway to a waiting helicopter.

“A happy sight for families missing moved ones,” the aid group says. The ICRC acted as a mediator as Nigeria exchanged some detained Boko Haram suspects in return for the girls’ release Saturday.

This is the largest release since Boko Haram seized 276 schoolgirls from Chibok three years ago.

— AP

German president visits Yad Vashem

Speaking during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, German President Walter Frank-Steinmeier says that Germany has an obligation to stand by Israel due to its Nazi past.

Steinmeier laid a wreath at the site’s Hall of Remembrance, during which he read a message that he left in the museum’s guestbook.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks to the press during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on May 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on May 7, 2017. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

“We Germans brought upon ourselves incomprehensible blame. Here in this place the memory turns to pain, sorrow, shame and disgrace. By taking responsibility for what happened we stand by Israel and [together] work for a common future,” he wrotes.

In addition to visiting Yad Vashem, Steinmeier also visited Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery, where he laid a wreath for the late Israeli leader Shimon Peres, whom he praised as a “true friend.”

UK government said to cancel Prince Charles visit to Israel

A historic planned visit to Israel by Prince Charles reportedly scheduled for later this year has been canceled by the British Foreign Office out of fears an official visit would anger the UK’s Arab allies, the UK tabloid The Sun reports.

According to the report, the heir to the British throne will not visit Israel in the fall of 2017 for a trip that was planned to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Though never officially confirmed by London or Jerusalem, a senior British Jewish community leader told The Times of Israel last November that plans were underway for a representative of the Crown to visit Israel in the first-ever official visit by a member of the royal family.

Britain's Prince Charles attends the funeral of former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / ABIR SULTAN)
Britain’s Prince Charles attends the funeral of former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / ABIR SULTAN)

In March, President Reuven Rivlin publicly extended an invitation to the prince to visit during the centennial year since the 1917 signing of the Balfour Declaration during a meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. But according to The Sun, the Royal Visits Committee, the branch of the Foreign Office that coordinates trips on behalf of the Royals, nixed the visit in an apparent effort to “to avoid upsetting Arab nations in the region who regularly host UK Royals.”

The report said Rivlin’s invitation never reached the office of Prince Charles.

Ayman Odeh calls Jewish state bill a ‘declaration of war’

Joint (Arab) List chairman Ayman Odeh issues a harsh condemnation of legislation seeking to define Israel as a Jewish nation-state, calling the Sunday decision by ministers to support the so-called Jewish State bill a “declaration of war” on Israel’s Arab citizens.

“Discrimination has received a legal stamp. The danger in this law in that is establishes two classes of citizen – Jewish and Arab,” Odeh writes in a statement responding to a unanimous vote by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in favor of Likud MK Avi Dichter’s proposal.

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint (Arab) List, speaks during a vote on a bill that would allow suspension of Knesset members, March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint (Arab) List, speaks during a vote on a bill that would allow suspension of Knesset members, March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to the language of the proposal, while every individual has the right “to preserve his culture, heritage, language and identity,” the right to realize self-determination “is unique to the Jewish people.”

In another controversial clause, Arabic would be relegated from an official language to one with “special status,” for which its speakers would be ensured the “right to accessible state services.”

Fatah’s Jibil Rajoub congratulates Haniyeh

Senior Fatah and Palestinian Authority executive member Jibril Rajoub congratulates Hamas’s former chief in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, on his election to lead the Palestinian terror group.

Rajoub, who heads the PA Olympic committee and is seen as a potential successor to Mahmoud Abbas, called Haniyeh to personally offer his congratulations, Hamas say in a post on its website.

Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Haniyeh was elected Palestinian prime minister in March 2006 following general elections which saw major gains for Hamas. He was dismissed in June 2007 by Abbas after the Hamas coup in Gaza. He has continued to act as Gaza’s de facto political leader ever since.

Iran’s Rouhani faces protests at site of deadly mine collapse

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani faces furious protests from victims’ families during a visit to the site of a mine accident that claimed dozens of lives, two weeks ahead of an election.

Local news agencies showed people atop Rouhani’s car and beating its windows as it tried to make its way through an angry crowd at the site in the northern Golestan province, where at least 26 people were killed by an explosion on Wednesday.

Rouhani, who is up for re-election on May 19, earlier addressed the crowd, saying: “The entire Iranian nation shares the sorrow of families of those killed in the Zemestan Yort mine accident. “Those responsible and anyone who had a fault in the incident must be found and dealt with accordingly, without any exceptions.”

As well as 26 confirmed dead, at least nine more miners were trapped inside after Wednesday’s explosion, but officials say there is little chance they have survived. The accident is thought to have been caused by concentrated methane gas that was triggered when workers tried to jump-start an engine.

Suspicious bag causes Paris security alert

Emmanuel Macron’s campaign press office says it was a suspicious bag that prompted the evacuation of the courtyard outside the Louvre museum, where the centrist French presidential candidate has planned to celebrate election night.

Macron’s team said a press room had been set up at the downtown Paris location and 300 journalists who were on site have been evacuated as a precaution.

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, center, campaigning ahead of the second and final round of the presidential elections, April 29, 2017, in Poitiers, central France. (Eric Feferberg/AFP)
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, center, campaigning ahead of the second and final round of the presidential elections, April 29, 2017, in Poitiers, central France. (Eric Feferberg/AFP)

The Louvre already was being heavily guarded after an extremist attacker targeted soldiers near the museum during the presidential campaign.

The Paris police prefecture tweeted a reassuring message: “#Louvre These are simple verification measures carried out as precautionary measure.”

The runoff election in which Macron is competing against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is being conducted under the watch of 50,000 security forces guarding against extremist attacks.

— AP

Wife of Honduran presidential candidate apologizes for praising Hitler

The wife of Honduran presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla apologizes to Latin America’s umbrella Jewish organization for comments she made appearing to praise Hitler.

Iroshka Elvir, 25, was named Miss Honduras in 2015, said “Hitler was a great leader” during an interview with El Heraldo newspaper published on April 26.

“When I talked about Hitler I talked about his leadership because, to my understanding, he did not do anything good,” writes Elvir in a letter addressed to the Latin American Jewish Congress after the organization, along with the Honduran Jewish community, reprimanded her remarks.

“The newspaper published that I admire Hitler, but it is not true, I never told them that I admired Hitler,” she says. “I am a great admirer of Israel, I love and bless that great nation. Receive my letter and my apologies since at no time did I want to offend any Jew.”

— JTA

Paris museum reopened after Election Day alert

The courtyard outside the Louvre museum in Paris is reopened after a brief security scare prompted an evacuation of the site where French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron plans to celebrate election night.

Explosives experts have left the site after a suspicious bag prompted the evacuation of a few hundred people, primarily journalists preparing for Macron’s event. The museum itself was not evacuated or closed, and visitors continued entering and leaving.

Soldiers patrol in the courtyard of the Louvre museum in Paris, France Sunday, May 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)
Soldiers patrol in the courtyard of the Louvre museum in Paris, France Sunday, May 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

The Louvre already was being heavily guarded after an extremist attacker targeted soldiers near the museum during the presidential campaign. Paris police said the evacuation was a “precautionary measure.”

Some 50,000 security forces are guarding voting stations and other sites around France for Sunday’s runoff between Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

— AFP

Jordan, US launch major military exercises

Jordan and the United States kick off annual military exercises known as “Eager Lion” with about 7,400 troops from more than 20 nations taking part, officials say.

US and Jordanian officials say the maneuvers include border security, cyber defense, and “command and control” exercises, to bolster coordination in response to threats including terrorism.

“Joint efforts and coordination and the exchange of expertise… are needed at the time when the region is facing the threat of terrorism,” Jordanian Brigadier General Khalid al-Shara, who will head the exercises, tells reporters.

US Marines monitor Eager Lion multinational military maneuvers in Quweira, south of Amman, Jordan, on June 18, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Maya Alleruzzo, File)
US Marines monitor Eager Lion multinational military maneuvers in Quweira, south of Amman, Jordan, on June 18, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Maya Alleruzzo, File)

US Major General Bill Hickman, deputy commanding general for the American army in the region, says this year’s “Eager Lion” exercises — the seventh so far — are “the largest and most complex to date.”

The highlight of this year’s exercise, he said, will be that “for the first time ever a global strike mission” will be conducted by “two US Air Force B-1B bomber aircraft” — a long-range multi-mission bomber.

— AFP

Knesset aides say unprepared MKs failing to oversee gov’t

A new poll of Knesset aides, the first of its kind, shows that a sweeping majority of Knesset aides think the Knesset is failing in its role of supervising the government.

According to the survey released by the Israel Democracy Institute, 92 percent of aides say they think MKs do not come prepared for Knesset committee meetings and 95% think the Knesset does not sufficiently oversee the work of the government.

Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni and MK Rachel Azaria vote at the Finance committee, during a vote on the 2017-2018 state budget, at the Knesset on December 19, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni and MK Rachel Azaria vote at the Finance Committee, during a vote on the 2017-2018 state budget, at the Knesset on December 19, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Despite this, some 65% of aides say the MKs they themselves work with are investing the appropriate amount of time on meetings related to professional parliamentary matters, on party-related activities (57%), on public duties unrelated to parliamentary matters (67%) and media-related activities (55%).

Researchers surveyed aides to 40 of the 91 MKs who are not ministers or deputy ministers.

“The poll proves the problem is not just on the personal level or with regards to the public obligation of one MK or another,” says IDI President Yohanan Plesner in a statement. “As long as no parliamentary reform is implemented – decreasing the number of committees and increasing the Knesset’s professionalism – we will continue to be disappointed by the quality of its work.”

Jared Kushner’s sister highlights family’s Holocaust survivor past in sales pitch in China

Jared Kushner’s sister, Nicole Mayer, highlights her family’s Holocaust survivor past and connection to the son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump during a real estate sales pitch to Chinese investors.

Kushner Companies is working to attract $150 million in financing for a housing development in New Jersey through the EB-5 government program, that awards foreign investors a Green Card in exchange for investments of at least $500,000 in American development projects that create a minimum of 10 American jobs. The controversial program has been called “U.S. citizenship for sale,” according to the New York Times.

Jared Kushner listens as US President Donald Trump participates in a congressional listening session with GOP members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, February 16, 2017. (Ron Sachs/Pool/Getty Images via JTA)
Jared Kushner listens as US President Donald Trump participates in a congressional listening session with GOP members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, February 16, 2017. (Ron Sachs/Pool/Getty Images via JTA)

Meyer tells more than a 100 Chinese investors that the project “means a lot to me and my entire family,” mentioning specifically that her brother formerly headed the family business and left to serve in the Trump Administration.

According to the report, Meyer talked about how family values had shaped Kushner Companies and spoke about her grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. She also spoke about her father, Charles Kushner, the company founder who spent time in prison for illegal campaign donations, tax evasion and witness tampering.

— with JTA

Macron campaign office vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti

A campaign office of the frontrunner in the French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron, was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti, French media reports.

The Normandy campaign office was vandalized on Friday night, according to the L’eveil Normand newspaper. Macron is not Jewish; he is however, considered a supporter of Israel.

The attack came less than two days before the opening of the polls Sunday morning in the runoff election between Macron and Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right National Front party.

Among the epithets written in red marker on the entrance to the campaign office were “Israel=Mossad de Rothschild,” referring to the wealthy Jewish family as well as Macron’s work as an investment banker at the French Banque Rotschild; ”Sioniste,” French for Zionist; and “the 20 most shocking extracts of the Talmud.”

It is not the first anti-Semitic attack on Macron during the campaign.

— JTA

Trump aide accused of links to pro-Nazi group rejects anti-Semitism claims

White House counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka rejects claims of anti-Semitism after a series of reports accusing him of being a member of a Hungarian far-right nationalist group.

According to an article published in March by the Forward, Gorka, a native of Britain who is the son of Hungarian immigrants, allegedly is a member of Historical Vitézi Rend. The group is a namesake of Vitézi Rend, a defunct order of merit that had existed as a state entity for 20 years until 1944 under the rule of Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s Nazi-allied leader. Vitézi Rend was disbanded, outlawed and ceased to exist in the 1940s following the World War II defeat of Nazi Germany.

Sebastian Gorka, left, a top aide to US President Donald Trump, seen in on inauguration day wearing the uniform and medal of Vitézi Rend, a Hungarian order of merit with ties to Nazi Germany (Fox News)
Sebastian Gorka, left, a top aide to US President Donald Trump, seen in on inauguration day wearing the uniform and medal of Vitézi Rend, a Hungarian order of merit with ties to Nazi Germany (Fox News)

Speaking at the Jerusalem Post annual conference in New York, Gorka, who has appeared on TV wearing a Vitézi Rend pin, says he wore the pin in honor of his father who received it from the group for his work fighting against communists.

“I have spent my life fighting against totalitarian ideologies, and so has my father,” he tells Post editor Yaakov Katz. “Nobody has found one sentence that I have said in the past 45 years that is anti-Semitic.”

Asked if he understands the sensitivity surrounding the issue, Gorka says the Jewish community has nothing to worry about. “Look at the facts. Look at what President Trump and Vice President Pence have said. We will always unapologetically stand by Israel,” he says.

US military chief said to visit Israel on Monday

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford will visit the Jewish state on Monday to meet his Israeli counterparts, according to a Ynet news report.

Neither the IDF nor the US Embassy will confirm details of Dunford’s itinerary. American protocol dictates that such confirmations only be released once the chairman is en route to his destination.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford presents IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot with the Legion of Merit, outside the Pentagon on August 4, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford presents IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot with the Legion of Merit, outside the Pentagon on August 4, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

According to Ynet, Dunford will meet with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. They are set to discuss the fighting in Sinai, where an Islamic State affiliate is engaged in a bloody war with Egyptian forces, as well as the situation in Syria, specifically the chemical weapons still believed to be in the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Iranian government’s attempts to transfer advanced weaponry through the country to the Hezbollah terrorist group.

This would be Dunford’s third trip to Israel in his position as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, but his fourth time meeting with Eisenkot.

— Judah Ari Gross

50,000 evacuated in Germany over unexploded WWII bombs

German police evacuate 50,000 people from the northern city of Hanover in one of the country’s largest post-war operations to defuse World War II era bombs.

Residents in a densely populated part of the city were ordered to leave their homes for the operation, planned since mid-April, to remove several recently discovered unexploded bombs.

Authorities had expected to remove as many as five bombs but it emerged that there were fewer. Experts have extracted three British bombs — two of which were defused successfully. The third bomb requires special equipment to be made safe.

A police officer helps an old woman of the district Vahrenwald in Hanover, central Germany, during the evacuation, May 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/DPA/Peter Steffen/Germany OUT)
A police officer helps an old woman of the district Vahrenwald in Hanover, central Germany, during the evacuation, May 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/DPA/Peter Steffen/Germany OUT)

More than 70 years after the end of the war, unexploded bombs are regularly found buried on German land, legacies of the intense bombing campaigns by the Allied forces against Nazi Germany.

The biggest such evacuation took place last Christmas, when an unexploded British bomb forced 54,000 people out of their homes in the southern city of Augsburg.

— AFP

Netanyahu urges German president to push for Palestinian accountability

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls for the international community to press for a change of heart in the Palestinian Authority that would see its talk of peace on the global stage matched by similar rhetoric when it speaks to the Palestinian people.

At a press conference together with visiting German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier the prime minister stressed the need to end Palestinian incitement in building peace.

Steinmeier’s visit, his first to Israel since becoming president in March and first to any country in that capacity outside Europe, comes after a recent row between Germany’s foreign minister and Netanyahu.

“What we would like to see is a change and the change would come from an international demand for accountability from the Palestinian authority and ask them to back their words outside with their words inside, that is teach their children peace,” Netanyahu says at a press conference in Jerusalem before the two men met for talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, May 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, May 7, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)

“Peace is what we seek and peace is what we hope we can get. With your help and the help of other leaders who will ask for such a change of heart that is so important for our common future.”

“We recognize that for there to be peace we have to educate our children for peace,” Netanyahu says. “We do so in Israel I wish the same were true of the Palestinian Authority.”

Netanyahu canceled an April 25 meeting with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel after the visiting diplomat declined to call off his meetings with rights groups critical of Israel’s government.

Police investigating attempted stabbing attack in Jerusalem

Police are investigating reports of an attempted stabbing attack at the Damascus Gate.

Initial reports suggest someone tried to stab a policeman on duty at the site.

Female assailant ‘neutralized’ at Old City attempted stabbing

Police say a female assailant has been ‘neutralized’ after attempting to carry out a stabbing attack near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.

She was carrying a laerge kitchen knife, according to Army Radio.

There are no victims reported injured.

Steinmeier calls for ‘joint future’ between Israelis and Germans

With the two countries still reeling from a diplomatic spat, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier calls for a “joint future” between Israelis and German, during a speech at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

“Germany would not be the country that it is today without the hand that was extended to us by our Israeli friends,” Steinmeier tells the audience.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, May 7, 2017. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, May 7, 2017. (Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

“With the Shimon Peres Memorial Prize, we will honor young Israelis and Germans who work on problems that are equally relevant to our two countries – be it working for peace, or questions of demographic change, climate change or digitization,” he says of the award he is being given by the university. “The message here — very much in the spirit of Shimon Peres himself — is that if we want a joint future, let us get to work!”

Steinmeier: ‘Let us us talk to each other about the challenges to democracy honestly’

Referring to last month’s diplomatic spat between his country and Israel over a meeting between the German foreign minister and Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says that he wants “to discuss our difficult questions with as many different groups in your country as possible.”

“Preserving the miracle that is this friendship is an unshakable task incumbent on us Germans. It was therefore clear to me that my first trip outside Europe as federal president would take me here to Israel. The events of the past two weeks have done nothing to change this – on the contrary, these discussions have strengthened my resolve to talk about democracy here in Israel,” Steinmeier told and audience at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Last month, Netanyahu canceled a planned meeting with German Foreign Minsiter Sigmar Gabriel after the latter refused to cancel a sit-down with Breaking the Silence, an NGO that collects anonymous testimonies from IDF soldiers on alleged human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Gabriel also met with B’Tselem, another group that deals with human rights issues and campaigns against Israeli settlement building.

This combination of pictures created on April 25, 2017 shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) attending a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 16, 2017 and German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel during a joint press conference on April 5, 2017 at the EU headquarters in Brussels. (Amir Cohen and John Thys/AFP)
This combination of pictures created on April 25, 2017 shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) attending a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on March 16, 2017 and German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel during a joint press conference on April 5, 2017 at the EU headquarters in Brussels. (Amir Cohen and John Thys/AFP)

“Democracy has never been a matter of course in either of our two countries, and it has neither reached a state of perfection nor is it guaranteed for all time today. It is precisely because Germany and Israel achieved democracy in such different ways that we Germans express such admiration for the path of Israeli democracy,” Steinmeier says.

“Because we Germans know and admire the diversity of democracy in Israel, we want to discuss our difficult questions with as many different groups in your country as possible, so as to get to know as many different viewpoints as possible – as we have done over decades in good faith. A word of advice to us all: let us talk to each other about the challenges to democracy honestly and without taboos. My experience from many years working in all fields of politics – not only foreign policy – is this: taboos do not help you to understand, and they do not create understanding,” he adds.

— with Raphael Ahren

Merkel’s party scores strong win in state poll

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives secure a strong win in state polls in northern Germany, early results showed, lending a boost to her bid to retain power in September’s national elections.

German chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and Conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) leader in North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet (C-L) stand on stage during a CDU campaign rally for state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia on May 5, 2017 in Bonn, western Germany. (AFP/Patrik Stollarz)
German chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and Conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) leader in North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet (C-L) stand on stage during a CDU campaign rally for state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia on May 5, 2017 in Bonn, western Germany. (AFP/Patrik Stollarz)

Voters in the small, northern state of Schleswig-Holstein handed her CDU party 34 percent, while the centre-left SPD clinched 27, according to public broadcaster ZDF. Another public broadcaster ARD gave the CDU 33% and the SPD 26%.

Steinmeier: Expressing criticism should not make you a ‘traitor’

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier openly criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision last month to cancel a meeting with the German Foreign Minister after the latter refused to cancel a sit-down with Breaking the Silence, an NGO that collects anonymous testimonies from IDF soldiers on alleged human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“I do believe that anyone who uses his voice, who expresses criticism, but at the same time respects the voice of others, is a ‘traitor of the people,'” Steinmeir tells an audience at Hebrew University, quoting a phrase some right-wing lawmakers have used to describe Breaking the Silence. “For that reason, I believe that civil-society organizations which are part of the social debate deserve our respect as democrats, even when they take a critical view of a government – in Germany, but also here in Israel.”

Steinmeir says that the German and Israeli Governments “have taken very different views” on what constitutes legitimate criticism.

“I have thought long and hard about what this means for my visit to Israel today. To be frank, quite a lot of people told me this was the wrong time for a trip to Israel. Some thought it would be more appropriate to cancel, or at least postpone the trip,” he says. “Perhaps that might even have been the easier solution for me. But I decided otherwise. Not because I find your prime minister’s decision to cancel his meeting with Germany’s foreign minister correct. But because I believe that it would not be in keeping with my responsibilities if I were to let relations between our two countries move deeper into a cul-de-sac, at the end of which all sides will have lost very much: Our two countries are bound by a terrible past.”

Concluding his critique of the decision, Steinmeier suggests that silencing voices of protest deligitimizes democratic societies.

“We are democrats, and as democrats we want to prove that the others – the autocrats, the totalitarians, the self-styled ‘strong men’ who decry the efforts and endeavors of democracy and are unaware of the value of compromise, and who parade their very simple answers of brute force – quite simply do not have the better answers. Why do I believe that? Because democracy is able to take a critical look at itself, and to correct itself. Autocrats are not!”

New footage appears to show Barghouti eating in cell bathroom

New footage released by the Israel Prison’s Authority appears to show Marwan Barghouti, the jailed Fatah official leading a hunger strike of more than 6,000 Palestinian security prisoners, eating food in his jail cell bathroom.

At 3:55 of the video, Barghouti can be seen taking some food from an envelope and placing it in his mouth before apparently spitting it in the toilet.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in response that Barghouti is “cynically endangering fellow inmates while not even committing to the protest himself.”

The hunger strike initiated by Barghouti began on April 17 to coincide with Palestinian “Prisoners Day,” an annual event held in solidarity with the more than 6,000 Palestinian security prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails. Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences for his role in murderous terror attacks during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.

Erdan says video of Barghouti exposes his ‘lies’

Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan says footage released by the Israel Prisons Authority of Marwan Barghouti secretly eating proves his hypocrisy in leading 6,000 Palestinian prisons in a hunger strike.

“As I said from the very beginning, this hunger strike was never about the conditions of the convicted terrorists, which meet international standards. It is about advancing Marwan Barghouti’s political ambitions to replace Abu Mazen,” Erdan says of the former Fatah official.

“Barghouti is a murderer and hypocrite, who urged his fellow prisoners to strike and suffer while he ate behind their back. Just like he lied to the world when he wrote in the New York Times that he decided to strike in order to protest ill-treatment, he lied to the Palestinian public when he claimed to be striking. Israel will not give in to extortion and pressure from terrorists,” he adds.

Belgian region parliamentary committee votes to ban ritual slaughter

A committee of the Walloon Parliament in southern Belgium votes to ban the slaughter of unstunned animals, a requirement for both kosher and halal ritual slaughter.

The environment committee of the Walloon Parliament voted unanimously for the ban, which takes effect on September 1, 2019. The issue is set to be debated later this month in the Parliament’s plenary, according to the European Jewish Congress. Similar legislation has been proposed by the parliament in the northern Belgium Flanders or Flemish region.

Shechitah, the ritual method of slaughtering animals, requires they be conscious when their throats are slit — a practice that critics say is cruel, but which advocates insist is more humane than mechanized methods used in non-kosher abattoirs. Muslims slaughter animals in a similar method, albeit with fewer restrictions, to produce halal meat.

— JTA

Le Pen’s FN turns away news outlets from post-vote event

Around 15 news outlets say they had been barred from the election night gathering for French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen and her supporters.

Le Pen’s National Front (FN) say they were turned away because of a lack of space at the venue, a dance hall in Vincennes, just east of Paris.

Le Monde, Liberation and L’Humanite newspapers said they would boycott the event out of “solidarity” with the other outlets.

French presidential candidate for the far-right Front National party Marine Le Pen (C) walks past supporters in the harbor of Le Grau-du-Roi, southern France, on early April 27, 2017. (AFP Photo/Bertrand Langlois)
French presidential candidate for the far-right Front National party Marine Le Pen (C) walks past supporters in the harbor of Le Grau-du-Roi, southern France, on early April 27, 2017. (AFP Photo/Bertrand Langlois)

Buzzfeed and Mediapart were among the online news sites that said on Twitter they were refused accreditation for the event, as well as reporters from Britain’s Sky News, the US monthly The Atlantic and the Italian public TV channel Rai.

“In solidarity with our counterparts, the editors of Liberation… have decided not to attend,” the paper’s deputy editor said, calling the snub “anti-democratic.”

Le Pen’s rival, centrist Emmanuel Macron, is favorite to clinch the presidency on Sunday, with the last opinion polls before the vote giving him a lead of more than 20 points.

— AFP

Macron trounces far-right Le Pen in ‘historic’ France election

Pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron wins France’s landmark presidential election, heading off a fierce challenge from the far-right in a pivotal vote for the future of the divided country and Europe.

Initial estimates show Macron winning between 65.5 percent and 66.1% of ballots ahead of Le Pen on between 33.9% and 34.5%.

The victory caps an extraordinary rise for the 39-year-old former investment banker, who will become the country’s youngest-ever leader.

French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement, Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a campaign meeting at the Place du Vigan in Albi southwestern France, on May 4, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PASCAL PAVANI)
French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement, Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a campaign meeting at the Place du Vigan in Albi southwestern France, on May 4, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / PASCAL PAVANI)

He has promised to heal a fractured and demoralized country after a vicious campaign that has exposed deep economic and social divisions, as well as tensions around identity and immigration.

Unknown three years ago, Macron is now poised to become one of Europe’s most powerful leaders, bringing with him a hugely ambitious agenda of political and economic reform for France and the European Union.

The result will resonate worldwide and particularly in Brussels and Berlin where leaders will breathe a sigh of relief that Le Pen’s anti-EU, anti-globalization program has been defeated.

— AFP

Israeli MKs welcome Macron victory

Several Israeli MKs welcome the victory of centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron over far-right Le Pen in France’s presidential election.

“Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron, the president of enlightened France,” tweets Zionist Union number two Tzipi Livni in French.

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